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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 October 2005, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Iraq awaits constitution result
Vote count in a power failure in Irbil, Iraq
Each province counts its votes then sends ballots to Baghdad
Millions of ballots are being counted in Iraq, a day after a historic referendum on whether to accept the country's new constitution.

Overall turnout in the vote, which passed off relatively peacefully, was more than 60% of the 15.5m voters.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to London, said the document had "probably passed".

Initial forecasts may come by Monday with an unofficial tally on Thursday and a final result on 24 October.

On Sunday, two mortar rounds or rockets were fired into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone where counting is taking place. The US embassy said there were no injuries.

I came here to participate and not make the same mistake we made at the last election. We will not allow others to control the Sunnis again
Yassin Humadi, Sunni voter

But a much-feared, large-scale attack on polling stations on voting day failed to materialise.

Three Iraqi soldiers were killed while transporting ballot papers north-east of Baghdad, and at least one civilian was killed and six injured in attacks on polling stations in the capital.

Five US soldiers died in the western city of Ramadi when their vehicle was hit by an improvised bomb, the military announced on Sunday.

Two-thirds majority

The referendum question was a simple "Yes" or "No" on whether to accept the constitution.

Ms Rice said a "Yes" vote was probable, although not certain.

"We'll see, but that's the general assessment that it has probably passed," she said, citing "people on the ground who are trying to do the numbers".

BBC correspondent Stephen Cviic says most Kurds and the Shia Muslim majority are almost certain to have backed the document.

The key issue will be whether minority Sunni Muslims have been able to block it.

Many Sunnis fear the constitution will create richer mini-states for the Kurds and Shias and leave the Sunni areas in the centre and west impoverished.

If Sunni dissenters have achieved a two-thirds majority in at least three of the 18 provinces, the document will fail.

Analysts say that is likely in Anbar and a possibility in Salahuddin but other key provinces, Diyala or Ninevah, might prove more difficult.

Turnout in Salahuddin, Diyala and Ninevah was more than 66%.

Iraq to be federal, parliamentary democracy
Official languages to be Arabic and Kurdish
Official religion to be Islam but religious freedoms guaranteed
Equal rights for all
Independent judiciary
Elections every four years

However, many Shias believed they had the majority they needed.

Some danced in the streets of Baghdad, chanting: "Our constitution has been approved, down with the Baathists!" referring to Saddam Hussein's former ruling party.

If the text of the constitution does pass, it will provide the basis for parliamentary elections in December.

Should it fail, the country's politicians would have to go back to the drawing-board.

Each province is counting its ballots and then passing a report and the ballots to Baghdad for checking.

The US hopes the constitution will pass to create a legitimate Iraqi government and move forward the time it can withdraw its 150,000 troops.

See the tight security surrounding polling stations

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